The Public Mission of the Social Sciences and Humanities: Transformation and Renewal

Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB), September 16-17, 2011

Sponsored by the Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB), The Young Academy at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities and the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, the Berlin Graduate School of Social Sciences (BGSS) at Humboldt University, the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) and the Institute for Public Knowledge (IPK) at New York University (NYU).



Friday September 16

Registration (8:30 – 9:15)

Opening Remarks (9:15 – 9:25)

Marc Helbling (WZB) and Andreas Koller (NYU), Organizers

Welcome Address (9:25 – 9:35)

Jutta Allmendinger (WZB President)

Introduction (9:35 – 9:45)

Craig Calhoun (SSRC President, NYU)

Sociology & the Public Sphere (9:45 – 11:45)

Michael Burawoy (UC Berkeley, ISA President): The Return of the Repressed: Recovering the Public Face of U.S. Sociology

Wolfgang Streeck (MPIfG Director, Cologne): Public Sociology as a Return to Political Economy

Discussants: Klaus Eder (Humboldt) and Craig Calhoun (SSRC President, NYU)

Lunch Break (11:45 – 13:15)

Economics & the Public Sphere (13:15 – 15:15)

Erik Reinert (Tallinn University of Technology): Economics and the Public Sphere: The Rise of Esoteric Knowledge, Refeudalization, Crisis and Renewal

Mark Thoma (University of Oregon, The Economist’s View blog): New Forms of Communication and the Public Mission of Economics: Overcoming the Great Disconnect

Discussant: Asaf Savas Akat (Istanbul Bilgi University)

Coffee Break (15:15 – 15:30)

History & the Public Sphere (15:30 – 17:30)

Thomas Bender (NYU): Historians in Public

Jacques Revel (EHESS): Public Uses of History: Expectations and Ambiguities

Discussant: Craig Calhoun (SSRC President, NYU)

Interdisciplinary Reflections I (17:30 – 18:15)

Helga Nowotny (President of the European Research Council): People, Institutions and Public Life: An Unfinished Agenda for Social Sciences and Humanities Knowledge Production

Saturday September 17

Registration (8:30 – 9:15)

Political Science & the Public Sphere (9:15 – 10:30)

Rogers Smith (UPenn): Political Science and the Public Sphere in the 21st Century

Discussants: Dagmar Simon (WZB) and Silke Gülker (WZB)

Coffee Break (10:30 – 10:45)

International Affairs & the Public Sphere (10:45 – 12:45)

Stephen Walt (Harvard, Foreign Policy blog): International Affairs and the Public Sphere

Lisa Anderson (President AU Cairo): ‘Too Much Information:’ International Affairs, Political Science and the Public Sphere

Discussant: Michael Zürn (WZB)

Lunch Break (12:45 – 14:15)

Interdisciplinary Reflections II: The Public Mission of the Social Sciences and Humanities (14:15 – 15:45)

Michael Burawoy (UC Berkeley, ISA President): Redefining the Public University: Developing an Analytical Framework

Craig Calhoun (SSRC President, NYU): Conference Synthesis

Outlook: Towards an Agenda for Research and Public Renewal (15:45 – 16:15)

Concluding Discussion (all conference speakers)

Reception (16:15 – 17:45)

Conference Outline:

In the post-war era, many academic disciplines, especially in the United States, have undergone an enormous professionalization and internal differentiation with increasingly self-referential scholarly communication, largely disconnected from the broader public sphere. However, the decline of the public mission of academia has not simply been linear and uniform across disciplines and regions – nor is this trend irreversible. This conference and the larger initiative seek to establish a more nuanced picture of the historical transformations of the public role of the social sciences and humanities disciplines, looking at the manifold interdisciplinary and transatlantic variations. This requires an account of the varying structuration of the public sphere itself. An analysis of both moving targets is necessary – the transformations in academia and the public sphere at large.

Leading scholars from both sides of the Atlantic who have studied the history and public mission of their disciplines will analyze the historical transformation of the public role of their professions comparatively and critically.

This collaborative effort to study those historical transformations comparatively is intended to inform and reinvigorate the search for pathways to the renewal of the public mission of the social sciences and humanities and to contribute to the renewal of the public sphere, helping to increase the role that public knowledge plays in social life.

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